It is a huge challenge to ensure that medical products that have been sterilized are stored safely and remain free from contamination in hospital environments. Meticulous attention to detail and rigorous implementation of sterile practices alone help a lot in ensuring that sterile products can be stored safely and securely and remain sterile until point of use.
A hospital may make use of sterile disposable products and it may have its own autoclaving section where used devices, equipment’s and tools are sterilized and packed in secure medical packaging until they are ready to be used. There are methods for both types of products.
Disposables such as syringes, needles and dressings made up of plastic and cotton fibers or paper require to be stored under ideal conditions to prevent contamination. Plastics are susceptible to UV degradation and oxidation and must remain in the sealed packaging. Paper and cotton can deteriorate under conditions of high humidity and temperature. Therefore, the ideal storage conditions for these sterile products is a well ventilated clean room with temperature and humidity control. Each type of product may be packed inside a container for isolation and to prevent any damage and exposure to light or sunlight.
Additionally, products must not be heaped one over the other that would induce deformations and consequent damage to outer packaging. Rubber medical products are also susceptible to deterioration and damage due to temperature, ozone, high voltage electrical sources, UV light and strong sunlight. A dry atmosphere may cause rubber to crack while humid conditions could promote growth of fungi and molds. If these devices came packed in a corrugated box with shrink wrapping, these must be removed and the individual units should be properly stored. While in storage someone or the other must check for any deterioration to the product, presence of odour or change in appearance or physical properties.
Reusable equipments such as scissors, knives and forceps require a different approach. In this case it is best to collected all used equipments and tools inside a separate room and put them into cassettes or containers and then transport them to the autoclaving, dry heat or chemical treatment room. Once these tools undergo sterilization they must be packed immediately in sealable sterile medical packaging and stored in a separate, sterile room with humidity and temperature control. It goes without saying that staff handling all such devices must use gloves and follow appropriate procedures.
Latex gloves require special handling. The storage temperature must be around 25 deg. C and the humidity level should be below 65%. Gloves should not be stored near ozone generating equipments such as fluorescent lights or UV light sources and the storage area should also be well ventilated. The room should also remain free of any organic chemical vapors and products must not come in contact with oil or grease that degrades rubber.
Manufacturers may supply products well sterilized and safely packed but user’s storage conditions and practices also determine shelf life and safety. Following recommended practices for disposables or for in-house reusable equipments keeps users safe at all times.